Heartburn - Acid Reflux - GERD - Hiatal Hernia - Solutions
These are all terms for that horrible burning in the chest after meals. They are all different, but interconnected.
Heartburn is the term used when it rarely occurs. It is usually associated with eating a very large meal, or one that is high in spices and/or fat content. This is where most people scold themselves then reach for an antacid.
Acid Reflux is associated with the times you belch, and then feel like your esophagus is on fire. In a way it is. You have opened up the sphincter that separates the esophagus and the stomach. This is supposed to be a one way valve that allows food to go into the stomach, but does not allow it back up into the esophagus unless you are vomiting. When that sphincter becomes weak you begin having further troubles.
GERD is the term used when you frequently get that acid reflux. It means that sphincter has weakened and is allowing that acid into your esophagus more and more frequently. This is when you need to get serious about self-care, or break down and see your doctor. From here on out things can get serious.
Hiatal Hernia is a term often used to describe when the acid from the stomach has come up into the esophagus and has worn away a section of the wall. This is a serious erosion of the esophagus and can lead to some very serious problems.
As you can see there is a progression here. There are similar and multiple causes for these conditions. Normally someone does not develop a hiatal hernia unless they have experienced at least some of the other conditions. Causes can range from a bacterial infection such as the one associated with ulcers to food sensitivities, food allergies, to having too much or too little stomach acid. Even the nicotine from smoking a cigarette can relax that sphincter. Most people automatically jump to the conclusion they have too much stomach acid. This is why there are so many different over the counter and prescription antacids on the market. The truth is that it is actually more common to have too little stomach acid. One way you can tell is to drink a glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar at the start of your symptoms. If the symptoms get better you have too little stomach acid. In this case the most common defense is to increase the minerals in your diet, as well as to take enzymes to encourage good digestion.
If you truly have too much stomach acid you can suppress it with antacids, but you will eventually cause other problems. The body will keep trying to make more acid the more you suppress it.
What can you do to ease your suffering?
Whether it is too much or too little the first thing you want to do is to soothe that burning sensation. Many people use food to do this, which can lead to weight gain. Overweight is one of the causes, so you have just defeated your purpose. Instead you may want to look to herbs and supplements to do the job for you. Sometimes it can be as simple as a ginger , chamomile or peppermint tea. All three of these have been proven to be helpful with stomach upset.
Licorice Root, not to be confused with the candy, has also been found helpful. If you have high blood pressure you should look for a type where the portion that raises the blood pressure has been removed it is referred to as deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL for short. Other herb that have proved useful are aloe, marshmallow root, anise, caraway, or fennel. Getting rid of the bad bacteria would also be a good place to start. One essential oil that has shown great antibacterial properties is Oregano. Make sure you choose a brand that has been certified for internal use. Otherwise you may get fillers that can be harmful if taken internally. When I think I have a bacterial problem I also reach for colloidal silver.
One possible cause for all of these things can be a lack of good bacteria. Especially if you have been fighting with antibacterial substances, whether natural or manmade, you should seriously consider restocking your system with a good probiotic. This can sometimes be all it takes to derail the progress of esophagus erosion.
The occasional heartburn is usually nothing to worry about, but if it is becoming more painful and more frequent lifestyle and dietary changes is the place to start. If eating smaller meals more slowly and wearing loose clothing after a meal doesn’t help then seriously consider some of the natural soothers above. Fight back with some of the natural things suggested above if the symptoms get more aggressive. Because of the progressive nature it is easier to deal with this early rather than waiting until it gets serious.
An additional resource can be found here - The Ultimate Guide Guide to Acid Reflux.
Nature’s Medicines by Gale Maleskey and the Editors of Prevention Health Books, copyright 1999 by Rodale Inc.
The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White MD and Steven Foster, copyright 2000 by Rodale Press
The Ultimate Healing System by Donald Lepore, N.D. copyrighted 1985 by Don Lepore
Blended Medicine by Michael Castleman, copyrighted 2000 by Michael Castleman
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC copyrighted 2006 by Phyllis A. Balch